Frequently Asked Questions

Mostly, the database is for voyeurism. It's very common to be curious about other people's finances. Wouldn't you like to know how much money people in other programs at your university are taking home or what you might be getting in your field if you had gone to another university? We want this database to scratch that itch for you.

This data might be useful to some (prospective) students who are researching programs or trying to anticipate what their offers will be. Student advocacy groups at some programs may also use the information to negotiate for higher pay or lower fees.

This site also fits into our overall mission of promoting more open discussion about finances, which is one of the reasons why we started Grad Student Finances and our personal finance blog.

Some of it is, yes. Many universities and some individual programs put their stipend rates on their websites. Sometimes individuals also reveal their various stipend offers in specialized forums. Wendy Chao used to collect stipend information for students in the biological sciences across many universities and The Scientist publishes an aggregated graduate student compensation for life science fields. (If you know of any more examples of websites that collect(ed) PhD stipend information, please email them to us.)

However, when we tried to find grad student stipend information from the university and departmental/program websites, we found it to be incomplete, outdated, and laborious to track down. Our general observation was that public universities kept their stipend information closer to the vest than private universities did, sometimes only publishing the absolute minimum stipend.

We believe that this database will supply stipend information in a manner and to an extent that is not currently available elsewhere online. We want you to be able to quickly see what grad students in your field are earning across many universities instead of having to search them out individually. We want you to be able to see what students in different departments at a single university are being paid, as those stipends may differ from what is published as the general stipend level for that university. It is also rare to find information online (except in forums) about what specific departments/programs offer as bonuses for winning an external fellowship, which can drastically change a graduate student's overall compensation package.

This community project cannot thrive without input from graduate students in many programs at many universities. While most of the purpose of having the data available is just for fun, your input (and particularly the specifics you put in the additional information section) may help some current or prospective students. Please contribute by submitting at least one year of data for yourself and sharing the site with your classmates and friends. We expect that the existence of this database will help promote open conversation about finances among PhD students, who can help one another live financially balanced lives in their local areas. As what you submit is anonymous, there is no harm to you to submit.

You can find your yearly or monthly stipend information:

  • in your offer letter (be sure to exclude any scholarships that will go toward your tuition, fees, and insurance)
  • in the courtesy letter you receive in January (if you are being paid by a fellowship)
  • on the W-2 or 1099-MISC you receive in January (if you are on compensatory payroll or have taxes withheld from your non-compensatory pay)
  • on your monthly pay stub

Be sure to multiply by the appropriate factor to generate your yearly stipend if you are working off of monthly or part-year data.

We would like for you to report your stipend before taxes, so if you are having taxes withheld the amount of money that shows up in your bank account is not the proper figure to submit.

Yes, please submit your grad student pay information even if it is not exactly what we are seeking. Just make a note in the additional comments section explaining exactly what you have submitted.

We do not save any of your information (IP address, etc.) other than what you enter into the form. Be aware that everything you enter in the form will be published in our database immediately. If you think that you revealed too much, for instance in the additional comments, please email us and we can edit your entry for you.

We normalize each stipend to the living wage for the county in which the university resides, creating a unitless number we call the living wage ratio. The living wage data is from the Poverty in America Living Wage Calculator and is for a single person with no dependents. The purpose is to allow you to quickly compare the stipends offered by universities in different cost-of-living areas.

Whether you receive a W-2, a 1099-MISC, a courtesy letter, or no communications at all at tax time, if you are using your pay for your living expenses you almost certainly will have to pay taxes on it. You must start from the assumption that all of your income is taxable and then prove to the IRS that a portion of it is not (if that's your situation).

We have written a handful of articles on graduate student taxes for our personal finance blog:

We also helped develop a tax resource for students at our university, which is a great reference while preparing your tax return:

If you use your stipend for living expenses (as opposed to tuition and fees), you almost certainly have to pay income tax on it.

If you are paid on the compensatory payroll system and receive a W-2 at tax time, that is just regular old income and you're going to pay tax on it.

All fellowships you receive (non-compensatory pay that may result in a 1099-MISC, a 1098-T, or no forms at all at tax time), whether you receive them in your bank account or your Bursar account, should be tallied up. Then you subtract out your qualified expenses (tuition, fees). The remainder is your taxable income.

You will be able to find more discussion of these types of questions at Grad Student Finances.